The poème-objet is a composition which combines the resources of poetry and plastic art, and thus speculates on the capacity of these two elements to excite each other mutually.
––André Breton, The Object-Poem, 1942
With a nod to Surrealism and its use of everyday materials, subversion of common objects, and incorporation of poetic language, this exhibition celebrates how the characteristics of the poème-objet (poem-object) are present in contemporary art. André Breton, the principle theorist of literary Surrealism, often discussed the ways in which text and object could work together, each having their own function within a work. The works in The Artist as Poet span 10 decades between 1917 and 2020 and represent how language—specifically poetry—is used in contemporary art, while shedding light on Surrealism’s influence. The exhibition includes works by Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Joseph Cornell, Aimée García Marrero, Glenda León, Maria Martinez-Cañas, Gordon Matta-Clark, Shirin Neshat, Michael Richards, Purvis Young, and Tim Rollins + K.O.S. (Kids of Survival).
These artists have experimented with language in myriad ways, by incorporating text in the works themselves and by giving the works poetic or playful titles. Included in the exhibition are handmade books, paintings, found objects, constructions, and collage works—the flat precursor to the three-dimensional Surrealist object. Language can be subversive in a descriptive and literal way, not only when it functions metaphorically. The idea of using language to subvert the function of an object is what all these artists have in common—selected from PAMM’s permanent collection and many from the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, these works explore what it means to classify the “artist as poet.”